Widow tells of profound sadness 50 years after death of soldier in IRA attack

The widow of a soldier killed in a double IRA bomb attack 50 years ago said she has lived with profound sadness ever since.

Trooper John Gibbons, 22, from the 17/21st Lancers Regiment, died in the attack near Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, on May 5, 1973.

The attack also killed Sergeant Major William Vines, 36, based in Aldershot, and Corporal Terence Williams, 35, from Kent.

Mr Gibbons, who was originally from Edinburgh, had a three-month-old son when he died.

His widow Linda McHugh said: “John joined the Army in 1969. He was so proud of his Scottish ancestry and the fact that he served his country.

“We lived in Germany and we had a son who was only three months old at the time of John’s murder.

“In fact, John left for his tour of duty in Northern Ireland when his son was only two weeks old.”

Ms McHugh said: “As a family we were absolutely devastated by his murder and we have lived with a profound sadness for five decades.

“John was a good man and he was motivated to do his part in making life better for others.

“I will never understand the hate and lack of care for human life that some are capable of.

“John’s life was never for others to steal away.

“We remember him today and every day as well as Terence and William, and are conscious that their families are experiencing the same heartache as ours.”

Linda McHugh, along with Kenny Donaldson, speaking at an event organised by SEFF (SEFF/PA)
Linda McHugh, along with Kenny Donaldson, speaking at an event organised by SEFF (SEFF/PA)

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at the victims’ organisation South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), said Mr Vines had been killed by an initial IRA bomb while Mr Williams and Mr Gibbons died in a second explosion while investigating the first attack.

He said: “This tragic incident brought about a review of Army policy and the dealing with the aftermath of primary bombings, followed by secondary attacks.

“Sadly, however, there were many others beyond this point who were also murdered through secondary bomb attacks.

“This is one of the many horrific acts of terrorism perpetrated against the Army in the area; those who perished are still remembered by some of us.”

Mr Donaldson also said a war pension for Ms McHugh was removed when she remarried.

He said: “Linda remarried years beyond John’s murder and in doing so the state removed her war pension, an act of further injustice.

“To this day, the matter has yet to be resolved despite the Ministry of Defence recommending resolution and substantive reparations to be made to those 270-300 war widows and widowers impacted.”